Explosion of colour
To capture the energy of a Gombey, try freezing the moment.
It is how photographer Andy Detzer managed to bring his shots of Gombeys to life. Eight of his “extraordinarily colourful and vibrant” images are now on display at Gallery One Seventeen.
The exhibit stemmed from a single photograph that hung as part of the 2016 Charman Prize, Gombey on Fire.
“It created quite a buzz,” said Mr Detzer, the general manager at Fourways Inn. “Years ago, I'd taken pictures at Fort Hamilton, at an event I did for a client who had Gombeys performing.
“For the Charman Prize, I took a picture of a fish and wanted something that was [similar in colour], so I merged the two images together.”
He was thrilled when people were just as enthusiastic about Gombey on Fire as he was.
“I was hoping for it because I was mesmerised by the image as well,” he said.
Despite the encouragement, the photographer decided to take a break.
In May he held an exhibit at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art with another Gombey shot featured in it.
“It was the most commented piece in my show and it was sold within five minutes on opening night,” he said of Gombey Splash, which now hangs in the Corporation of Hamilton. “Everybody was talking about it.
“They said it was very artistic and had a completely different feel to Gombey [art], something people hadn't seen before.
“That has always been my aim. I never wanted to compete with other photographers on the island; there are so many fantastic ones out there.
“For me, it was always the artistic approach that interested me as a photographer — to create something that other people don't do. For me, it always has to be unique.”
From there, he came up with the idea of an exhibit dedicated to Bermuda's Gombeys. It helped that Gombey Evolution Troupe held weekly performances at Queen Elizabeth Park.
Initially, Mr Detzer didn't let the troupe know what he was doing.
For three months every Saturday he simply showed up, snapped his shots and left a donation.
“They were all fine with it,” he said. “For them I guess I was just a regular tourist.”
Eventually, however he had to come clean.
“I wanted more of a specialised image and so I donated money and said, ‘Would you pose for me for artwork I'm trying to create?'.
“They didn't ask any questions. I guess they get this all the time.”
The reaction he got from people he shared the photographs with, including gallery owner Danjou Anderson, was encouraging.
“Danjou has always been a great supporter of my artwork,” said Mr Detzer, who began exhibiting his photographs in 2011. “Each and every one of the people I showed [my Gombey images to] was in absolute awe and loved them.
“The general feedback was: ‘I wish I had more wall space' or ‘I wish I had a more modern approach to my furnishings'. But I understand, it doesn't fit into everybody's house; people often have more traditional artwork.
“These are all painted on metal, they're vibrant in colour and they're large pieces (40in by 60in).
“They're painted on aluminium and the metal part really brings out the colour, the vibrancy of the images. So they would suit a modern house or an office or a public place, maybe at the airport.”
The majority of the Gombeys in his current exhibit are with Evolution.
Mr Detzer was happy they were pleased with the images.
“If you have one Gombey in there, he's literally jumping off the wall because of the vibrancy in the colour,” said the German, whose work brought him here 29 years ago. “There's so much energy behind them.
“I'd always been involved in Gombeys in that I heard them performing in the restaurant, around the restaurant; in public events and private events where clients hired them.
“I always liked them, but I didn't really follow them. That has changed. Because of this I've fallen in love with them.
“When you're watching the whole group, you can get overwhelmed by the drumming, by the people around them. When you freeze several movements of the Gombey, that's when you really get to feel the energy behind them.
“The [pictures are full of] colour and life, they bring energy and vibrancy to the foreground and that's what I hear when I talk with people.
“On the night of my opening I had [members of] Evolution at the gallery.
“One of them said he had been a Gombey for 25 years and got all kinds of artefacts from people and collects Gombey art but he has never seen anything like this. It was an enormous compliment for me.”
• Andy Detzer's exhibition, The Gombey, runs until Saturday at Gallery One Seventeen, 117 Front Street. Ten per cent of sales will go to Bermuda's Gombeys